Weekend Roundup: From Germany to Mayfair

Waugh’s 1931 travel book Remote People is receivng more attention in Germany. This may be due to the issuance of a new edition of the full German translation that was originally published in 2007. In a Deutchlandfunk radio broadcast (or possibly podcast) dated 18 June 2018, the commenatator (Pieke Biermann) concludes a discussion of the book (for which a transcript has been posted) with this:

“Remote People” (In German, “Befremdliche Völker, seltsame Sitten“) is wonderful prose, as clear as it is atmospherically dense, as knowledgeable as it is thoughtful, and brilliantly translated by Matthias Fienbork. A highly political book, in defiance of all the good intentions of the author, who states soberly …. :

“I set off without any definite opinion on British colonial policy, nor did I intend to form an opinion, but the problems were so persistent that I had no choice but to deal with them.”

… In German, except for a 1949 collection, nothing of Waugh’s travel prose has yet been published. The Other Library has dug up a gem after 66 years…

Another German review of the same book by Vera Reusch has also been posted on another Deutschlandfunk website. On a German bookblog (Frau Lehmann liest), the blogger read the same book and, after a summary of the narrative, concluded:

In Karl May’s travelogues, as a teenager, I always skimmed through the endless landscape descriptions and went from adventure to adventure, even then with a big smile at the everlasting heroism of [Karl May characters] Old Shatterhand or Kara ben Nemsi. It would be horrible to think that these novels would have existed only from landscape descriptions! Waugh, however, would not be Waugh, if not from time to time brilliant tips would stand out from the rather boring sentence pulp, such as his small climb in Aden. All in all, though, I would advise you to take a closer look at his social studies and leave the adventures to Mr. May. He was sitting at a desk while Waugh was actually out and about.

The same bookblog also has a review of the new paperback edition of the German translations of Waugh’s short stories, Ausflug ins wirkliche Leben (Trip to Real Life):

Fifteen cold-sparkling diamonds, well-formed and usually provided with a rather black-humored punch line, will be found by the reader in this booklet. Most written in the thirties, almost [between] the author’s weddings. [There’s one] about an unusual honeymoon, others about the world of the movie, about the occasional strange behavior of the British upper classes, about the dangers of excessive author worship and so on. Of course, some such stories please one more than others, at least in my case, but all in all I can say that this selection gives a very good idea of ​​Evelyn Waugh’s style and preferred subject matter, and the level is consistently high. Personally, I am very pleased that the Diogenes Verlag is so lovingly dedicated to this author, who unfortunately is not well known in Germany. Lately, quite a few beautifully designed Waugh volumes have come out, which I wish [will have] many enthusiastic readers…

The translations ot the book reviews are by Google with some editing. Both of these translations were recently discussed in previous posts.

The Spectator is celebrating its 190th anniversary, and in its current issue, it recounts some of its achievements. Among these is this patagraph summarizing its coverage of literature:

The Spectator also made its name as an infamously stern critic of the arts: its independence of political party was matched by a disdain for pushy publishers. While George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, Rudyard Kipling and Joseph Conrad were hailed as heroes, the writings of Bulwer-Lytton were ‘baby-fancy’, Tennyson’s ‘namby-pamby’, Dickens’s ‘vulgar and detestable’ and Emily Brontë’s ‘too coarse’. To Charlotte Brontë, a bad review in The Spectator was all the worse because of its influence. ‘Most future notices will in all likelihood have a reflection of The Spectator in them,’ she wrote, after one gentle trashing. But ‘if Jane Eyre has any solid worth in it, it ought to weather a gust of unfavourable wind’. Undaunted, however, many a literary lion has joined The Spectator pride – John Buchan (assistant editor), Graham Greene (film critic and literary editor), John Betjeman and Lionel Shriver (columnists). Among the infinite list of occasional literary contributors stand T.E. Lawrence, Aldous Huxley, H.G. Wells, T.S. Eliot, Evelyn Waugh and Ian Fleming.

The Wall Street Journal has a story about the successful makeover of the Mayfair bookstore Heywood Hill. Evelyn Waugh was a patron as well as a supplier of product, especially during Nancy Mitford’s wartime tenure in the sales department. It also helped that the store was adjacent to his barber. The makeover was undertaken at the direction of Peregrine Cavendish, 12th Duke of Devonshire, after he inherited some shares. During the previous management, profitability had been allowed to slide, but now, the WSJ reports:

This year, the now-profitable landmark store on Curzon Street in London’s upscale Mayfair neighborhood, is expected to generate in excess of £2 million ($2.64 million) in revenue, up from £540,000 in 2011, says Nicky Dunne, chairman and the duke’s son-in-law…The secret sauce is its highly personalized subscription service based on interviews with its customers, either in person, online or via telephone. At a time when discounted books are as close as one’s cellphone or tablet, the Duke of Devonshire says the shop’s ability to predict what customers will want to read next based on past reading experiences is a crucial difference maker. Heywood Hill gets its share of casual walk-in customers, but more than half its revenue comes from assembling libraries for people or institutions. The rest comes from consumers in the U.K. and abroad willing to pay a bit more in exchange for books tailored to match their tastes. It’s a bit like having a favorite college English professor whispering in your ear, making recommendations.

Among the reportedly popular items in these subscription orders are the books of Evelyn Waugh and Nancy Mitford.

A Mayfair art gallery (Michael Werner, 22 Upper Brook St, W1) has announced an exhibit it calls “Vile Bodies”. According to this report in Time Out, however, the art on view seems to have little if any connection to Waugh’s novel:

Vile Bodies’ is best known as the title of Evelyn Waugh’s interwar novel about flapper era Londoners drinking their days, nights and fortunes away. But don’t expect to see any pictures of flamboyant 20s debutants at this exhibition. Bringing together paintings, sculptures and works on paper by 24 different artists, the show shines a light on how the human form (in all its wobbly, bumpy glory) has been recreated in art.


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